28 September 2003
Lehto, Herbert just Champion in Miami.
Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto scored their third American Le Mans Series win of the season by driving the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 to victory in the Grand Prix Americas presented by Sportsbook.com on the streets of downtown Miami.
The win, while valuable for the Finn's championship chances, was extra sweet for Champion team owner Dave Maraj, who bases the team in nearby Pompano Beach, and for team sponsor ADT, also headquartered in the Miami area.
"The track was very slippery at the start, but I didn't have any real problems," Lehto said, "It's been a perfect
weekend for Team ADT Champion Racing. We started from
outright pole for the first time this season, won
our 'local' race, set the fastest race lap and have moved
closer in the championship. We were on the pace from the
start and deserved our third win of the season - perfect!"
The winning car finished 40.642secs ahead of the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 of Frank Biela and Marco Werner although, with their second-place finish, the two Germans moved closer to winning the LMP 900 title. Only Lehto has any chance of unseating them in the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta next month, but must win that race too.
The first and second-place cars ran the two-hour, 45-minute race on one fuel stop, each planning its race strategy on the high likelihood of numerous yellow flag laps on the tight 1.15-mile street circuit. In the end, only 36 of the 157 race laps were run under caution, but the yellows were spaced far enough apart for the strategies to work.
"We did plan it that way, and it worked in our favour," said Herbert, who drove nearly two hours of the race, "We still had to save fuel in the last part of the race, so we had to back off a bit. That saved so much fuel that we could finish. It was perfect for us. We had some fuel in the end - I got the final warning light about one lap from the finish.
"The pit-stop was a little nerve-wracking when some fuel caught fire, which delayed JJ from strapping me in. It also caused me to get a little hot! In terms of the car, though, everything ran perfectly without any problems.
"It's massive for Dave Maraj and the team. He tells me he could have gone cruising in the Caribbean, but he chooses to do this because he loves motorsports. It's great that we can both give him this victory down here. We get all the glory, but the team does all the work."
The Panoz LMP01 of Olivier Beretta and David Saelens finished third in the LMP 900 class for JML Team Panoz, extending their record run of podium finishes in recent events.
The Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG of Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace won the LMP 675 class, but only took the lead near the end of the race after the Dyson Racing sister car driven by James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger experienced a drivetrain problem while at the head of the class. Weaver and Leitzinger still finished second in class, albeit two laps behind Dyson and Wallace, following the lowly finish of the rebuilt Intersport entry. The two Dyson cars had battled among themselves for a great portion of the race, with the veteran Wallace raving about the track afterward.
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